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Plants with Big Leaves Make a Bold Statement

Embarking on vacation to an exotic locale feels pretty unlikely in the near-term. As we hunker down at home to wait out COVID-19, memories (or daydreams) of relaxing times, surrounded by exotic, lush foliage, will have to sustain us for a bit longer. For our household, this summer's big adventure will be a perpetual coronacation in our own backyard. ūüėČ Lucky for us, we happen to be homebodies and enjoy relaxing in our garden. If you'd like to up the vacation vibe in your own backyard retreat, adding big foliage to your garden is a great way to lend a touch of the exotic.

But first, a question: Are you looking to add some all-season structure, or are you looking for pure, unadulterated summer time fun? Your answer is going to dictate whether you're looking for an evergreen leaf or whether you'll consider options whose contribution is more transient. Or better yet, perhaps a bit of both?

Below, you'll find a sampling of plants with big, bold leaves that will add a touch of the tropical to your garden. (Of course, the real fun happens when you expand upon your selection to create a vignette using several plants with an air of the exotic.) Enjoy browsing the options below. When you find one that captures your imagination and that you'd like to add to your garden, click through to get ideas of what to plant with it.

¬°Arriba, Arriba! ¬°√Āndale, √Āndale!


Raring to Go, Year-round

Acanthus mollis 'Hollard's Gold'

Hollard's Gold Bear's Breeches

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Aspidistra elatior

Cast Iron Plant

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 8, 9, 10

view plant

Fatsia japonica 'Spiders Web'

Speckled Japanese Aralia

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Fatsia japonica 'Variegata'

Variegated Japanese Aralia

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9

view plant

Fatsia japonica 'Variegata' Camouflage

Camouflage‚ĄĘ Variegated Japanese Aralia

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Phormium 'Jester'

Jester New Zealand Flax

Type: Perennial, Shrub, Tender Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 8, 9, 10, 11

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Phormium cookianum 'Tricolor'

Mountain Flax Tricolor

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 8, 9, 10

view plant

Schefflera delavayi

Hardy Schefflera

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Schefflera taiwaniana 'Yuan Shan'

Hardy Schefflera

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Morning Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

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Trachycarpus fortunei

Windmill Palm

Type: Shrub, Tree
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9

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x Fatshedera lizei 'Annemieke'

Annemieke Tree Ivy

Type: Perennial, Shrub, Vine or Climber
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant


Part-year Party Animals

Aralia cordata 'Sun King'

Golden Aralia
Sun King Spikenard

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Canna 'Bengal Tiger'

Bengal Tiger Canna Lily
CANNA 'PRETORIA'
CANNA GENERALIS 'AUREOSTRIATA'

Type: Bulb / Corm / Tuber, Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Canna indica 'Phasion'

Tropicanna Canna

Type: Bulb / Corm / Tuber, Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Canna musifolia 'Red'

Banana Canna (Red Form)

Type: Perennial, Tender Perennial, Tropical
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum

FARFUGIUM TUSSILAGINEA 'GIGANTEA'

Type: Perennial, Tender Perennial
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 8, 9, 10

view plant

Hosta 'Blue Angel'

Hosta Blue Angel

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Hosta 'Sagae'

Sagae Hosta

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Hosta 'Sum & Substance'

Sum and Substance Hosta

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'

Little Honey Oakleaf Hydrangea

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8

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Melianthus major

Honey Bush

Type: Perennial, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat
Zone: 8, 9, 10

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Musa basjoo

Hardy Banana, Japanese Fiber Banana

Type: Tree, Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Afternoon Sun, Filtered Sun, Part Sun
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Podophyllum pleianthum

Chinese May Apple

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9

view plant

Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'

Russian Comfrey
Variegated Comfrey

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7

view plant


This Garden is the Ultimate Staycation

To get your creative juices flowing, tour this fabulous Portland garden, designed by Erin Ray.

Published July 10, 2020


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